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KCCI-Tourism Dept engagement: Time to unlock J&K’s sustainable tourism potential

Ziraat Times Editorial Board

The hospitality sector in Jammu and Kashmir plays an important role in the state’s economy, serving as a vital source of revenue and employment. The government’s proactive policies in recent years for promoting tourism in J&K have encouraged unprecedented investment in the hospitality sector, including the expansion of hotels, guest houses and home stays. The generous subsidy schemes provided by the Tourism Department and the Industries Department are creating a more dynamic and competitive hospitality sector in Jammu & Kashmir. These subsidies are encouraging horizontal spread of hospitality facilities even in off-beat tourist destinations, providing economic benefit to an even broader section of the society. Tourism Department’s string of measures to bring in greater accountability and transparency in the conduct of tourism operations have gone a long way in making J&K a more tourist-friendly destination. While these positive structural policies and initiatives of the Tourism Department are well acknowledged, there are a few procedural issues which would merit attention.

The recent meeting between the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI) delegation and Director Tourism Kashmir, Raja Yaqoob Farooq, has shed light on several pressing issues that would require consideration of all key parties. Addressing these challenges is not only crucial for the sector’s growth but also for the overall economic well-being of Jammu and Kashmir. One of the most critical issues highlighted by the KCCI is the prolonged delays in renewing registration licenses for various hospitality establishments. Hotels, guest houses, lodges, resorts, houseboats, and restaurants are reportedly facing hurdles due to the process of obtaining No Objection Certificates (NOCs) from multiple departments. These delays, which, according to key hospitality sector actos, can extend to months or even years, stymie the growth and operational efficiency of these businesses. The government should look at ways of streamlining the license renewal process to align with the Prime Minister’s “Ease of Doing Business” policy. Simplifying and accelerating this process would reduce unnecessary red tape, enhance operational efficiency, and encourage investment in the state’s tourism sector.
Hotels, which have applied for license renewals, report facing delays due to minor documentation gaps, maintaining they are being unfairly penalized. The KCCI’s call for the withdrawal of such notices contains merit. The authorities should adopt a more supportive and facilitative approach, ensuring that minor bureaucratic issues do not disrupt business operations. Addressing these concerns would create a more business-friendly environment, promoting confidence among current and potential investors.

The KCCI’s emphasis on the “Ease of Doing Business” policy is particularly relevant. For Jammu and Kashmir to attract more tourists and investors, the regulatory framework must be conducive to business operations. This includes reducing unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles and creating a more transparent and efficient system for license renewals and other regulatory requirements.

Another important issue discussed was the regulation of service charges within the hospitality sector. The imposition of exorbitant tariffs by some establishments can indeed deter tourists and harm the region’s reputation as a tourist-friendly destination. The government, in collaboration with hotel associations and other stakeholders, should establish fair and transparent pricing guidelines. This would ensure that tourists receive value for their money while enabling businesses to operate profitably. Balanced regulation of tariffs is essential for sustainable growth and maintaining a competitive edge in the tourism industry.

The Tourism Industry stakeholders acknowledge and commend improvements in Gulmarg, where steps have been taken to curb tourist harassment and mistreatment, and serve as a model for other tourist destinations in the region. The government should replicate these measures across other key tourist destinations in Jammu and Kashmir. By doing so, it can ensure a consistent and positive experience for all visitors, thereby boosting tourism and local businesses across J&K.

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